On Sept. 17, AT&T turned on its fourth generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) network in Sacramento. Davis’ LTE network was turned on in early August, but its activation was announced the same day as Sacramento’s.
Over the wireless LTE network, smartphone users can download five to 12 megabytes per second (Mbps). It is also about 10 times faster than the third generation (3G) network. Currently, it is available in most major areas of California, such as the Bay Area, San Diego and Los Angeles.
According to an AT&T press release, the carrier has the nation’s largest 4G network, reaching 275 million people with 4G technology.
“[Smartphone users] like to multitask and love the speed,” said John Britton, spokesperson for AT&T. “The LTE network is all about speed.”
Britton said because of the faster download speeds, people can have a much more fun, more efficient experience on their smartphones and tablets.
“With LTE, these screens are materializing fast,” he said. “Everybody wants wireless connectivity these days because we’ve become a mobile lifestyle, a mobile population.”
Since college students are constantly on-the-go, they are a prime target audience.
“College students are a target audience for several reasons. First, they are in that age group and demographic where everybody is embracing that technology,” Britton said. “They’re a mobile population; a lot of college students may not live at home, they live in the dorms or off campus and don’t spend a lot of time on the computer at home.”
Consequently, college students demand connectivity even more so than a lot of other people, Britton said.
There are two types of 4G networks: the 4G HSPA+ network and the 4G LTE network. The HSPA+ network stands for Evolved High-Speed Packet Access and is four times faster than 3G.
“In the last couple years, we’ve had five speed upgrades on the HSPA+ network,” Britton said. “We’re constantly updating the network.”
The AT&T press release said the LTE network provides not just faster speeds, but also new devices, faster response times and a more efficient use of spectrum.
With more users, there needs to be more capacity on the network. Thus, AT&T said they add more carriers, which adds more spectrum. The added spectrum creates more bandwidth so that more people can use it. However, because spectrum is finite, it’s a challenge for carriers to accommodate their users’ need for speed.
Britton said AT&T is constantly expanding, optimizing and improving the network to meet the growing demand for mobile broadband.
“Mobile broadband is unbelievable,” he said. “In the last five years, mobile data on our network increased by 20,000 percent.”
AT&T is working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over spectrum. Britton likened spectrum to the blood of the wireless network.
“[Spectrum] is being used up quickly as people use bandwidth,” Britton said. “Streaming video is bandwidth intensive and that’s what college kids probably do a lot.”
Britton said back in 2007 when smartphones were just appearing, there wasn’t as problematic of a bandwidth situation since people used their phones for email.
“When we get faster networks, more people are tuning into YouTube, streaming videos and eating up resources,” Britton said.
Britton said what’s increasing is contact via social media and text messages. Voice calls are on the decline and more people are going to Twitter and Facebook to connect.
“We continue to see demand for mobile internet skyrocket, our 4G LTE network in Sacramento and Davis responds to what customers want from their mobile experience — more, faster, on the best devices,” said Terry Stenzel, AT&T’s Vice President and General Manager for Northern California and Northern Nevada, in a statement.
CLAIRE TAN can be contacted at email@example.com.